When the legendary Fnatic roster reunited just after the ELEAGUE Major a lot of people assumed that it would be a straight return to the kind of form we saw them during their heyday, or at least very close to it. The players hadn’t changed, but they had learned that playing with others was perhaps more difficult than they thought, so a return to the team-mates that they were comfortable with would have been a welcome reunion.
But that didn’t happen, in fact it was far from it. While they haven’t struggled as much as say Virtus.Pro in recent months, the Fnatic team has not had an amazing season. Sure they made it to more than a few big LANs and their online form was actually pretty good, but it seemed like they just couldn’t take that final step to becoming one of the very top teams in the scene.
However, in recent weeks things have looked a little better with an upcoming appearance at the Krakow Major, and arguably their best performance since reforming was at DreamHack Summer. While it wasn’t the most stacked competition in the world there were more than a few big names for them to fight against and they did so admirably, coming second after losing to SK in the final. To us that seems like a solid performance, but the Fnatic guys still weren’t happy with it.
“We are kind of happy, but at the same time, we always aim for the first place,” says Jesper “JW” Wecksell when reflecting on their performance at DreamHack. “You have to put it in perspective, and it’s a great improvement from our last events. We can’t be too sad about it but of course it’s not that great of a taste. It gave us some confidence.”
One of the standout games of the competition was Fnatic’s match against CLG, which decided who would top the group and get an easy ride into the semi-finals. The map went to multiple overtimes, and it looked like both teams had the win at multiple points, only for the other team to come back and push the match even further. It was an instant classic, but it too was not something that the Fnatic guys were overly happy about, despite the solid end result.
“We lost some games [we shouldn’t have] like to CLG, that was a tough one,” says Flusha. “We also lost Inferno to Immortals, our Inferno wasn’t great at DreamHack, but overall second place it’s a lot better than we’ve performed lately.”
After overcoming Immortals quite comfortably in the end, with 16-9 and 16-1 scorelines on Overpass and Mirage, Fnatic were in the final against SK Gaming. As we all know SK ended up taking the win 2-1, but the map that Fnatic did win was a very interesting one. They managed to defeat SK on Overpass, a map that until the Immortals match they had not had a great time on.
“I feel like Overpass is a map we put in a lot of time to, but never really felt it paying off online,” says JW. “I remember we felt it paying off in practice and stuff like that but as always playing it on the LAN tournament is when you see what putting in those hours has given. Yeah, online-wise maybe it wasn’t that good of a map, but obviously we can play it.”
Putting in the practice on it certainly helped, as they took the map quite comfortably against the two best Brazilian sides in the world, one of which is considered to be the strongest team in the world right now, and they are no slouches on Overpass. But it turns out that for these matches they didn’t just rely on the tactics they had been working on, and in fact changed up some things to give them the advantage.
“We changed some CT setups on Overpass, like swapping me to B, and JW to A, so our CT side was new,” says Flusha. “Our T side was like, well we didn’t play against SK much on the T side so we didn’t really know how good we were on that, but I guess for Immortals we knew they were good on A but bad on B, so we just went B all the time.”
Sometimes it is easy to think that the logic behind strategic decisions in pro CS is beyond anyone’s comprehension outside of the top 1% of players and strategists, but even we can understand that. If you know your opponent sucks at defending the B site, you to go B every single round. Fortunately for Fnatic this worked a treat. But with performances like this you have to ask why Fnatic never wanted to play Overpass.
“Our permaban has been Cobble, we never really played good on it on practice and we don’t know if we’re good on it since we’ve never played it in a real match,” says Flusha. “The same with Overpass, we never played it before this and we won, so I don’t know if we should try playing the other maps more. I’d rank three of the maps as our best; Mirage, Inferno, and probably Overpass. It looks like one of our best maps right now.”
It’s certainly hard to argue with that logic. If you manage to beat SK in their current run of form on a map that you thought was one of your worst, then it surely must become one you at least become comfortable with. Sure it may not be your first choice, but a couple of good results like that certainly show that you can play it, and that other teams may be worried to play you on it. As the players continue to speak about their Overpass performance it becomes clear that they are starting to realize they may be in a stronger position than they first thought.
“I feel like we can beat any team on any map, basically,” says JW. “Of course there is teams like Astralis that is really, really good on Overpass but at the same time, I’m not afraid to play it against them. I guess we can play it against anyone but we’ve always tried to ban so we get the best match for us.”
One of the team’s best results in quite a while was much more than just a second place finish. It was a tournament that allowed them to build on a lot of things, and discover that their map pool may be one deeper than they originally thought. Sure it isn’t the LAN victory they wanted, but it put them in a much stronger position to challenge for the Major.